Cameron 'bounces' Tories into poll lead

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David Cameron has catapulted the Tories into a lead over Labour, according to two opinion polls published tomorrow.

The election of the new Tory leader has given his party a "bounce", pushing David Cameron into a two-point lead over Tony Blair.

The two polls, by ICM and YouGov, put the Tories on 37 per cent, two points up on last month. In one, Labour is a point behind; in the other, two points.

Francis Maude, the Tory Party chairman, said the polls showed the Conservatives were "at the dawn of a new era. There is much work still to be done, but this is a great start." The polls, for The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph, showed that the Tory lead over Labour would widen under a Labour Party led by Gordon Brown.

David Cameron is to take radical action tomorrow to boost the number of Tory women MPs at the next election and announce an immediate freeze on the selection of party candidates.

In the closest move yet towards positive discrimination, the new Conservative leader will insist that half of all candidates in the top 140 target parliamentary seats are women.

He will also insist that an A-list of candidates includes a representative proportion of ethnic minorities.

The Tory leader will take on traditionalists who have opposed any form of affirmative action to increase the number of women MPs. He will assert his authority over local constituency parties and prevent them choosing candidates who are not approved.

The freeze on the selection of candidates will take place "with immediate effect", Mr Cameron will say, in a challenge to local parties that plan to resist his reforms. An A-list of the "best and brightest candidates" will be drawn up and will include people from outside the party.

One source said: "The process for selecting the A-list will be based on merit and will be open and transparent. The A-list will be drawn up by the party board's committee on candidates."

The move will encourage women's groups and modernisers who have warned that unless the Conservative benches in the House of Commons look more representative of modern Britain the party will not win the next election.

The Tories have only 17 women MPs in the House of Commons, but have resisted introducing all-women shortlists or other forms of positive action.

Only 12 per cent of the candidates selected for the Conservatives' 50 most winnable seats at the last election were women.

Use chip fat to fill up your car, says Tory leader

Chip shops and restaurants should be made to collect their old cooking fat so that it can be used to fuel cars, David Cameron has told The Independent on Sunday.

The new Conservative Party leader suggested the measure as part of plans to "stimulate a wide range of renewable sources of energy" after meeting leaders of environmental pressure groups.

He has promised to make the environment - and especially the fight against global warming - one of the top priorities of his party.

The apparently unorthodox chip fat proposal is, in fact, an ecological "double whammy" that could help to combat climate change and preserve Britain's sewers. It is being vigorously promoted by John Gummer, whom Mr Cameron has just appointed one of the chairmen of the group overhauling the party's environmental policies.

He says that at present more three-quarters of the 300,000 tons of waste fat produced by restaurants in Britain each year "goes down the drain, where it has a terrible effect on sewers".

Yet the fat can easily be turned into an eco-friendly substitute for diesel. Indeed, says Mr Gummer, it is even greener than other biofuels since it causes the emission of much less carbon dioxide.

Geoffrey Lean